Food Service & Agriculture and Travel & Tourism

Great Lakes hard-cider competition picks world's best producers

March 22, 2013
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Great Lakes hard-cider competition picks world's best producers
A fresh Orange Label hard cider by Sietsema Orchards in Ada. Photo via fb.com

The eighth annual Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition will be held at the Courtyard Marriott in Grand Rapids this weekend — and will include local competitor Sietsema Orchards.

The competition, put on by the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association, has grown to be the second largest hard cider competition in the world. Hard cider producers from across the country and Europe have submitted their products for judging.

“Having this competition in West Michigan's own backyard demonstrates the success of hard cider in West Michigan,” said Andy Sietsema, owner of Sietsema Orchards in Ada. “People from as far away as Spain and England will be traveling to Grand Rapids, staying in the hotels here, spending money at the restaurants here — the competition is really great for West Michigan tourism.”

Sietsema has submitted his Red, Orange and Yellow Label ciders as well as a limited special reserve cider.

Each of the ciders offers distinctly different attributes, which he thinks makes them contenders in the competition.

For instance, the Red Label cider offers a complex blend of citrusy sweetness with an underlying dryness with notes of pineapple and banana, while the Yellow Label cider has a carbonated kick, resulting in a full-bodied beverage that is dry, tart and just a little sweet. Finally, the Orange Label cider is derived from letting the Yellow Label mature in an oak bourbon barrel, resulting in a smoother, earthier cider with less dryness and more complexity for the cider connoisseur.

Sietsema has been named one of four up-and-coming cider makers to watch in 2013 by seriouseats.com.

He participated in the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition as a non-commercial cider maker last year and won a Silver and Bronze Award for his entries. This year he is confident that his ciders will be well received based on the feedback that he has been receiving from the community, including West Michigan restaurants that have started serving the ciders.

“The people of West Michigan support local products,” Sietsema said. “They love being able to go to Sietsema Orchards and see where the apples are coming from and see the process of the apples becoming cider.”

A panel of judges, consisting of Beer Judge Certification Program judges, industry professionals and media, will sample the cider in a blind taste test. Judgment of the ciders will be based on style, level of carbonation, level of sweetness and any special ingredients or processes used in production.

The public will get a chance to sample a few of the competing ciders at HopCat on March 23. A Cider Tap Takeover will begin at 5 p.m. and Sietsema Orchards, Vander Mill, Uncle John’s, Tandem and Black Star Farms ciders will be available.

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